Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Steny H. Hoyer
Ranking Member - Helsinki Commission

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For well over a decade now, I have been active on issues relating to the former Yugoslavia’s violent demise, and the need for an active U.S. role if the international community is to succeed in ending this violence and restoring respect for Helsinki principles. I continue to feel that way and hope the united states will remain actively engaged in the region.

On this Commission, let alone in this Congress, there are a wide variety of views about the role of NATO and the presence of the U.S. military in southeastern Europe generally and in Bosnia and Kosovo in particular. Whether one believes we should be there or not, I think we could all agree that the best solution now is to achieve the progress in the civilian sphere that would establish genuine security in the region and allow our troops not only to come home, but with mission accomplished.

I view this hearing as focusing on that exact point. If we want to see our military commitment to the region conclude, we must work to develop institutions and organize elections that give the people of Kosovo the ability to govern themselves. We must help them create a police service that protects citizens and enforces the law. We must help create a judiciary in which the law is upheld and offenders are held accountable. We must support the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague so that a sense of justice can facilitate ethnic reconciliation and tolerance. We must help stop those who resort to violence, in Kosovo, Macedonia and elsewhere.

It may take time to do these things, but it will take even longer if there is the perception that we are not committed to seeing our goals ultimately realized.

As a former Chairman of this Commission, I also have followed the evolution of the CSCE into the OSCE, of a forum for dialogue into an organization with a presence in the field. I am impressed with the efforts of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and of OSCE missions elsewhere to bring the promises of the original Helsinki principles into the lives of people in need.

There are, Mr. Chairman, many problems in southeastern Europe. To a great extent, these problems could not be resolved effectively as long as the main problem in the region – Slobodan Milosevic – remained in power. His removal by the people of Serbia has created a new opportunity for progress. I hope we will not let this opportunity slip away but will, instead, use it creatively so that, in the not too distant future, our presence and our assistance will no longer be needed. I look forward to what our witnesses have to say in this regard.